All-flavors bread

Every-flavor bread, halloween candy

Vinny’s come up with a yummy way to use left-over Halloween candy that helps keep sugar spikes at bay. We’re borrowing from Harry Potter, Bertie Botts in particular, to create a treat that offers a surprise in every bite. More

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Chocolate raspberry birthday cake

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Our traditional family birthday cake is chalk-full of chocolate. But thrown in are other flavors like raspberry and coffee that make it a hit with young and old alike. I use healthy ingredients besides chocolate, like coconut palm sugar, coconut oil and eggs. The alcohol in the coffee liqueur evaporates in the baking. But if you’d rather just use a second half-cup of coffee, be my guest.

I make the two layer cakes ahead of time and freeze them. A day before the party, I let them thaw for a half hour or so. Then I cut the two layers in half while still slightly frozen. It’s easier when the cake is still a bit solid. I fill the layers with jam and whipped cream and top off with a rich icing. This filled cake stays moist for several days in the fridge, the perfect party food.

I give you two options for icings, both of which are richly delicious. The one made with avocado rather than sour cream has more of the healthier fats, but fats never the less. Both toppings are easy to whip up and have good body for spreading. Take your pick.

Hey, it’s a birthday cake, not a diet food. God made chocolate in heaven and the devil threw in the calories! But don’t let that spoil it for you. We all deserve a treat once in a while. Happy birthday!

Chocolate raspberry torte

Chocolate raspberry birthday cake

Cake

  • 2 cups (240 grams) whole-grain pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 squares unsweetened chocolate (3 ounces total)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 cups coconut palm sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup strong coffee
  • 1/2 cup coffee-flavored liqueur

Filling

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 12-ounce jar double-the-fruit raspberry jam

Topping 1: Chocolate sour cream frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup sour cream

Topping 2: Chocolate avocado frosting

  • 3 ounces (110 grams) dark chocolate
  • 3/4 cup (60 ml) chocolate milk
  • 3 tablespoons (30 grams) coconut palm sugar
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 completely ripe avocados, about 1 cup or 225 grams
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder, about 25 grams

Decoration

  • fresh raspberries
  • candles

Chocolate raspberry torte

Make the cake layers

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch layer cake pans and  cut parchment paper circles to fit bottoms of pans.
  3. Wisk dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  4. Chop chocolate into pieces and melt it in the top of a double boiler. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Be careful not to get any water in the chocolate or it will curdle.
  5. In a large bowl, beat coconut oil, sugar and eggs at high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 min. Beat in melted chocolate and add vanilla. At low speed beat in flour in fourths, alternating with sour cream in thirds. Add coffee and liqueur, blending until smooth.
  6. Pour batter into pans and bake 30-35 min or until surface springs back. Cool in pans for 10 min, then remove from pans and cool on wire racks. When completely cooled, wrap in foil and store in the freezer until the day before the party.

Fill the layers

  1. Slice the two cake layers in half horizontally to make four thin layers (easier if still slightly frozen).
  2. Beat the cream until stiff.
  3. Place one layer with its cut side up on cake platter. Spread with 1/2 cup raspberry jam, then 1/2 cup sweetened whipped cream.
  4. Repeat with remaining layers, ending with the top layer placed cut side down.

Frost the cake with the sour cream topping (option 1)

  1. Melt chocolate chips in top of double boiler.
  2. Add sour cream (with a dash of salt) and stir gently until creamy and smooth.
  3. Work quickly while icing is still warm to frost sides and top of cake. Do the sides first and finish with the top. Use a wide spatula.
  4. Garnish with fresh berries and candles.

Frost the cake with the avocado topping (option 2)

  1. Melt the chocolate in top of double boiler. Stir in the milk, sugar, and vanilla.
  2. Scoop out the avocado flesh and put it into a food processor. Add cocoa powder and blend.
  3. Add warm chocolate mixture to the avocado puree. Blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl until no green flecks of avocado can be seen. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar if needed.
  4. Add more milk if the icing is too thick to spread, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  5. Work quickly while icing is still warm to frost sides and top of cake. Do the sides first and finish with the top. Use a wide spatula.
  6. Garnish with fresh berries and candles.
Karen's cake

May one of your gifts be a pony

 

Your key to using Stevia

earl grey tea(bag) cookies

Why stevia?

This natural, no-cal sweetener from the leaf of the stevia plant is incredibly good for you. Unlike sugar, it doesn’t create an insulin response. Its sterols and antioxidants actually nourish the pancreas, the organ that regulates blood sugar.

Sugar addicts can enjoy foods sweetened with stevia without suffering all the negative effects of sugar. Risk of chronic diseases caused by too much sugar in our food, like diabetes, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, and obesity, can be reduced by using stevia to lower our sugar consumption.

coffee foam

Taste

Don’t expect stevia to taste exactly like sugar. Pure stevia extracts are 300-400 times sweeter than ordinary table sugar. A little goes a long way. Used properly, stevia sweetens food nicely. It takes the sourness out of lemons and yogurt and the bitterness from coffee. The taste is lighter and fresher than the same food sweetened with sugar, which can be cloying.

Every sweetener has its own unique taste. Honey tastes different than maple syrup. Agava syrup tastes different than brown sugar. Coconut palm sugar tastes different than corn syrup. And all these sweeteners taste quite different than ordinary table sugar. But none of these sweeteners are calorie-free or nonglycemic. Stevia is both.

Stevia

Pure stevia extract is in the small round jars, top left. All the others contain additives.

What stevia product should you buy?

Read the label. Buy a powdered product that is 100 percent pure stevia extract. Stevia powders sold in combination with fillers have diminished health properties and can cause digestive problems in some people.

Truvia is one such product, where the stevia is combined with erythritol, a sugar alcohol made from corn. You might also see stevia combined with maltodextrin, inulin, xylitol, and glycerin. These additives are included to prevent clumping, to adjust the taste closer to that of table sugar, and to lower the cost. But all this comes at a cost to your health. Pure is best.

If you only use a little stevia, to sweeten your coffee or a bowl of yogurt, for example, liquid stevia is way more convenient. Again, read the label and buy an alcohol-free, pure liquid stevia.Or make your own liquid stevia, like I do.

100% Stevia – no sugar or other additives

Using stevia

In Canada, I buy New Roots stevia white powder concentrate and I use it to make my own home-made pure liquid stevia sweetener. It’s much cheaper.

Baking  When making desserts, always add the powdered stevia to the liquid ingredients in the recipe and give it time to dissolve, as it tends to clump. Be patient. It dissolves quickly. Also, it dissolves quicker in hot liquids than cold ones.

Stevia works well with chocolate and in puddings and custards.

In recipes that need a crystalline structure to rise properly, like angel cake, souffles, or meringues, you have to use a combination of granulated sugar and stevia. Experiment with your favorite recipes to get it right. These might not be worth the effort.

Stevia-sweetened apple yogurt bowl

Snacks  My favorite snack is what I call my yogurt bowl. I buy 0% Greek plain yogurt, for more protein and less saturated animal fats. Then I add fruit and nuts, and perhaps some cinnamon or vanilla. I finish with home-made liquid stevia made from powdered concentrate to sweeten it all up. So good!

Beverages  For sweetening single cupfuls of tea, coffee, and cocktails, where only a small amount of stevia is needed, I use home-made liquid stevia made from the powdered concentrate. You can buy the liquid extract, but making your own from the powder is cheaper.

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Home-made liquid stevia
Makes 1/2 cup, enough to sweeten 24-36 cups of coffee

  • 1/4 teaspoon stevia white powder concentrate from New Roots
  • 1/2 cup boiling water (filtered or distilled, preferably)
  1. Pour the boiling water on the powder in a small heat-proof bowl.
  2. Gently stir until the powder dissolves. It clumps in the water initially but it quickly dissolves. Within a minute or so you have a colorless solution.
  3. With a funnel, pour it into a small dropper-style, dark-brown, glass bottle. Store the excess in a second dark-brown glass bottle. I found mine at the pharmacy and washed them well before using. Refrigerate or store in a cool place, away from light for longer shelf-life.

Stevia

I find that with time the liquid stevia gets cloudy. It doesn’t affect the taste. Just shake it well before using. But if you don’t use it often, you may want to make it up in smaller quantities. If you have enough patience to divide a 1/4 teaspoon in half, you can cut my  recipe in half.

Adjusting the amount

Too much stevia can change the taste from sweet to metallic. You have to learn for yourself how much is just right. Choose a brand you like and experiment with your favorite recipes. Keep notes and readjust the next time. Or buy my brand and follow my guidelines. Then adjust to your own taste from there. Believe me, if you like sweet foods it is so worth the effort.

Single servings

For single servings of coffee, tea, lemonade, or cocktails, it’s easy to adjust the sweetness to the level you like best.

Start with half a dropper of home-made liquid stevia in your usual cup of coffee. Taste, and if you want it sweeter, add more, one drop at a time. Taste after each addition, until the taste is right. Too much, and the drink tastes bitter.

I’ve found that I like about 1/4 teaspoon of my home-made liquid stevia in my espresso coffee. But to each his own. This technique works for any single-serving beverage.

Sugar equivalents

Most traditional recipes are too sweet for my taste. Normally, I reduce the  sugar to half the amount called for. Then I use the following stevia substitutions:

Sugar           Stevia powdered concentrate         Home-made liquid stevia

1 cup                                       1/2 teaspoon                                       1/4 cup

1 tablespoon                         –                                                              3/4 teaspoon

1 teaspoon                            –                                                               1/4 teaspoon

Accuracy when measuring stevia is important. Over-fill the measuring spoon, then use a knife to smooth the top of the powder, pushing the excess back into the bottle. For small quantities, use the liquid option.

Experiment with each recipe to find your own sweet spot, as each recipe (and taster) is different.

Enter “stevia” into my search box to find some recipes where I’ve used stevia successfully (and one NOT so successfully).

Related

Banana ice cream desserts two ways

Strawberry banana ice cream

A nutritional bonanza from our friendly banana

This dessert is so good, people call it Nice Cream. The riper the banana, the sweeter the dessert.

Ripe bananas also have higher levels of antioxidants, which as any frequent reader of Vinny’s blog will know, fight chronic disease and inflammation.

One interesting thing about fully ripened bananas is that they also produce a substance called tumor necrosis factor (TNF).  TNF combats abnormal cells to help shrink cancer tumors.  The more dark patches a banana has, the higher its ability to fight this dastardly disease. If you are a diabetic, fruit contains significant amounts of natural sugar and you have to watch your portion size.

Banana ice cream is the perfect way to use your over-ripe bananas. Cut three ripe bananas in coins and freeze them in a sealable plastic baggie overnight or until you need them. When you feel the urge for something sweet, whip up one of these delicious desserts in no time.

Banana ice cream, two ways
Each recipe makes 2 cups or four 1/2-cup servings

Strawberry banana ice cream

Raspberry banana ice cream with a strawberry on top

Very berry ice cream

  • 3 bananas, cut in coins and frozen
  • ½ cup frozen raspberries (frozen strawberries or blueberries work well, too)
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Strawberry banana ice cream

Store your banana ice cream in plastic food containers with lids.

  1. Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour contents into a 2- or 3-cup plastic food container with lid.
  3. Freeze one hour or until solid.
  4. Spoon into a bowl and add toppings if you want, like fresh berries, dark chocolate curls, or chopped nuts. Avoid adding syrups or candy to keep the added sugar down.

Per serving: 107 Cal, 14 grams natural sugar, 3 grams fiber, 2 grams protein, 0.4 grams fat

Chocolate banana icecream

Chocolate banana ice cream with peanut butter.

Chocolate peanut butter cup

  • 3 bananas, cut in coins and frozen
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Pour contents into a 2- or 3-cup plastic food container with lid.
  3. Freeze one hour or until solid.
  4. Spoon into a bowl and add toppings if you want, like fresh berries, dark chocolate curls, chopped nuts, or chopped dry fruit.

Per serving: 157 Cal, 20 grams natural sugar, 4 grams fiber, 3.8 grams fat

Chocolate banana icecream

Recipe notes

I froze my ice cream for 4 hours before trying it. It was solid but still easily spoonable. If yours gets too hard to spoon, leave it on the counter for 10 minutes first.

The recipe calls for milk, and I usually use skim. But you can use soy or almond milk, and anywhere from 2% cow’s or goat’s milk to whipping cream. Even chocolate milk would be nice in the chocolate desserts. That’s what I used here. The flavor and texture varies with the milk you use.

I avoid high-fat milk products because I can’t afford the calories and I’m leery of saturated animal fats. Use whatever milk you normally like and go from there.

There are no added sweeteners in these recipes.  I think you’ll find the ripe bananas provide all the sweetness you need. But if your family likes it sweeter, try adding stevia. It works well in these kinds of desserts. Add the equivalent of a tablespoon of sugar and go from there.

But do try it without sweetener first. Avoiding extra sugar is the one best thing you can do for your family’s health. You’ll be surprised how good it is. I know I was.

How does it taste?

I loved the flavors of both desserts. I was surprised how chocolaty the chocolate peanut butter cup was. The texture reminds me of fruit sorbets rather than rich ice creams. But that might change if you were to try yours with whipping cream instead of skim milk. The younger set in our family gave both flavors an unqualified high five.

Chocolate banana icecream

Simple desserts are sometimes the best.

Apple Brown Betty Cake

Apple Brown Betty

Vinny suspected something was amiss when he began to smell a decidedly strong odor of apples, wafting from the cupboard whenever he opened the door. He pulled out his brand new bag of apples for inspection. Alas, three of the apples were  already beginning to, well, rot. Out they went into the compost. But what to do with all the rest? More

Easy peanut butter cookies

Will makes peanut butter cookies - just 3 ingredients

Recipes from labels

Vinny and I had the greatest time at the cottage this summer. One of the things we did was experiment with recipes on the labels of foods we brought with us.

“Let’s try peanut butter cookies,” said Will, studying the label on the jar of one of his favorite foods. “There’s only three ingredients. And we have them all!” More

Holiday Open House, Sun Nov 27, 1-4pm

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‘Tis the season, whether we like it or not. I personally love it! So much fun getting together with old friends, sharing some sparkly, sampling baking made at special times of the year, remembering happy days from years past… and meeting new neighbors! I even love the whole shopping thing, searching out little baubles to put under the tree and surprising the people I love.

That’s why I happily agreed to help my daughter Kristina host an open house at her place this year to launch the holiday season. More

Bled cream cake makes dreams come true

Wedding at Bled castle

We just got home from a wonderful visit to Europe. One of our pleasures this trip was a leisurely tour of the small country of Slovenia. It’s a land where fairy tales come true. And to prove it, I’m posting a recipe for the heavenly Bled Cream Cake. More

Vinny’s on Yum Goggle

Ile de Re: Fish market

Vinny’s been updating older posts recently and putting them up on Yum Goggle. Yum Goggle features food photography from contributors around the world. The photos whet your appetite for the recipes you can get simply by clicking on the pictures or the words GET THE RECIPE. It’s a great site and we’re proud to be a part of the team. More

Healthier Happy Birthday cake-pie

Chocolate cream pie with figs

It’s Sharon’s birthday today, so Vinny brings you a rich, chocolatey tart with no  flour in the filling, that you can stick candles in and sing happy birthday around, merrily. With this dessert, you can enjoy a slice and know that along with your birthday calories, you are also getting a decent helping of nutrition. More

Rhubarb and Ginger Fool for April 1st

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What is an April Fool?

The only surprise I was treated to on April Fool’s Day was Alex Trebek, walking onto his game show set without his pants! I did, however, write this post for you on April 1st, which should entitle me to name my fruit pudding recipe April Fool. It’s a tasty British fruit “Fool,” in the traditional sense.

More

Celebrate Pi day with this easy chocolate cake — only 3.14-ingredients

Pi day cake

A cake suitable for Pi day, photo by Tip Junkie

The story behind Pi day

Normally, I’d choose a pie to celebrate the math constant π (Pi = 3.14159…) on its special day, which is coming upon us soon. Scientists the world over will likely be tucking into a delicious slice of one, perhaps a banana cream or pecan pie, More

Watermelon cheers us up with coolers and salads

Watermelon

Watermelon is a mood food

As most of my friends fly south for the winter, I thought I’d inject a little sun into my own life with watermelon. Deep into February as we are, a food to lift our spirits seems in order.

I’ve covered some of this before, but for newer readers, are you surprised to learn that watermelon is a good source of  the mood vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B6 (pyridoxine)? I was. Turns out thiamine is important for maintaining electrolytes and transmitting nervous-system signals throughout the body. Pyridoxine works with enzymes that convert food into cellular energy.

Who needs warm weather… Let’s party!

Watermelon

Watermelon pepo

Watermelon is a berry

Another surprising fact about watermelon… its fruit is a pepo, a special kind of berry with a thick rind and fleshy center.

Watermelon pepos offer the most nutrition per calorie of any common food.

Red is the give-away. Bright colors signal a big pay-off in  lycopene, an antioxidant repeatedly studied in humans and found to protect  against a whole slew of cancers…  prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and colorectal, for starters.

Watermelon offers lots of  beta-carotene and another antioxidant, vitamin C. Besides helping lycopene to ward off cancer, these vitamins also battle heart disease, arthritis, and asthma.

Then there is the mineral potassium, guardian of our cardiovascular system, brain, and kidneys.

Finally, watermelon provides lots of the master mineral magnesium. Magnesium  is the big boss for over 300 cellular metabolic functions. Poor soils make magnesium scarce in today’s foods. Lack of magnesium is related to irritability, tension, sleep disorders, and muscular cramping, including the heart muscle (attack!).

How to enjoy watermelon

Watermelons retain most of their nutrition even after being cut and stored in the fridge. But watermelon is best eaten at room temperature when the flavor, plus the phytonutrient capacity, is at its best.

Watermelon

Eat plain

Just quarter a large watermelon berry and slice off slabs. Eat the flesh right off the rind and spit out the seeds.

Watermelon salad

 

Watermelon salad
Serves one

  • one cup watermelon cubes
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • one cup kale, ribs removed and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon avocado oil
  • 1 ounce goat cheese
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1. Chop the flesh into bite-sized chunks.
  2. Drizzle them with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or vodka. Let them soak it up for a few minutes.
  3. Use them to top a plateful of greens, kale in my photo, which I drizzled with  avocado oil and massaged well.
  4. Top with crumbled feta cheese or, my favorite, goat cheese.

 

Watermelon fizz cocktail

Vinny’s pink watermelon cooler
Serves four

  • 2  cups watermelon cubes, frozen
  • 4 ice cubes
  • Juice of one fresh lemon (1/4 cup)
  • Juice of one fresh lime (2 tablespoons)
  • 2-4 tablespoons of any sugar syrup you have. I used home-made red-current couli, But any fruit syrup, even grenadine (from pomegranates) or maple syrup, will do. I use an equivalent amount of stevia unless it’s a special occasion.
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 2 pinches of black pepper
  • 3-4 ounces raspberry vodka (optional)
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup club soda, depending on whether you add alcohol or not and the size of your glass
  1. Blend the whole works except for the club soda for a few seconds.
  2. If you want to serve some of the cocktails without alcohol, leave the vodka out and add it back to the glasses of  the folks who want it.
  3. Fill each glass about halfway with the watermelon fizz. Add 1 ounce alcohol to each glass if you didn’t include it in the mix. Top up with club soda. Adjust flavor with more lemon juice if needed.
  4. Spoon some of the pink foam into each glass and top with a raspberry or a mint leaf to garnish.
Watermelon

Watermelon

When the winter blahs get you down, break out some watermelon and smile :).

 

 

 

Whipped goat cream, a tart cheese treat

Whipped goat cheese

Whipped goat cream

Once upon a time I came across a recipe that called for whipped goat cheese. So I took my basket and headed to the grocery store, where I eventually found a small tub of the stuff at three times the cost of regular, ordinary, every-day goat cheese.

When I finally had a minute to spare I sat down and examined the label. The ingredients were goat cheese and water… and a few chemicals. It seemed I’d bought a processed food fortified with who knows what. And I thought: why can’t I make that myself – and leave out the chemicals?

Why indeed. It’s so simple, I didn’t even need a food processor. I got great results with nothing but a spoon and a bowl.

Whipped goat cheese

Goat cheese and lemon – so easy to whip up

Whipped goat cream
Makes approx 1 1/4 cups or 20 tablespoons

  • 1 cup (150 grams) goat cheese, at room temperature (mine comes in a tube)
  • 2 tablespoons yogurt from 2% goat’s milk (I make my own… You don’t? OK, use natural Greek-style yogurt instead)
  • freshly squeezed juice and finely grated zest from half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Stevia* to taste (0 calories) or 1 teaspoon honey
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoons hot water, or as needed to achieve desired consistency
  1. Combine goat cheese, yogurt, sweetener,  lemon juice and zest into a bowl.
  2. Cream them together with a wide spoon until smooth, adding 1-2 tablespoons of hot water, as needed, to get a light creamy consistency. Add more if you like it runnier, as for a dip perhaps.
  3. Season to taste with a little sea salt.

*This is a great recipe in which to experiment with Stevia, because it sweetens while enhancing the lemon flavor. It works better than sugar.

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Pear taquitos with whipped goat cream

How to serve goat cream

This works great in the recipe I mentioned off the top, for pear taquitos. I make it often for special occasions, and it is always a success.

Whipped goat cheese

Whipped goat cream goes well with fruit and today I enjoyed it with sliced apple.

Use it as a low-sugar icing on cupcakes or tarts. Whipped goat cream adds moistness and tang to any chocolate, lemon, or banana treat.

Thin it out a bit more and use it as a veggie dip for carrots or turnip sticks.

Whipped goat cheese

Whipped goat cream works as a spread on crackers. I like it with Triscuits (20 calories each) but if you like bagels or toast, I’m sure it would be delicious there as a spread.

Nutrition

One tablespoon of whipped goat cream has 21 calories. It has equal amounts of fat and protein, about 1.5 grams each.

Whipped goat cream is a low-carb food, only 0.3 grams (if you use stevia to sweeten).

This food is a good source of vitamin A, niacin, riboflavin and iron.

By the way, you can reduce the amount of fat per tablespoon by adding more water. This is how manufacturers make low-fat butter and mayo. Now, you can make them too and save some money. They charge more for products with less fat because of the processing cost.

 

War-time treats from Redwall Abbey

Redwall_abbey

Redwall Abbey – A child’s delight

To honor the people who gave their all in the Great Wars, I’m reposting some recipes I first brought to you in 2012. These traditional recipes were in vogue during the scarce years of the Second World War… but many probably go back much farther than that, handed down by mothers and mother’s mothers in Britain ever since they began to grow potatoes and cabbages… and gooseberries! More

Meringue ghosts hone egg-cracking skills

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Here’s another easy recipe for small fingers. Kids learn how to separate eggs. Then they can make up these cute, tasty little Halloween ghosts and marvel at the mysteries of food chemistry.

Use eggs at room temperature for frothiest results. Or put eggs from fridge into warm water for 5 minutes or so to warm them up. More

1,2,3-Ingredient brownies with low-sugar, nutty spread

3-ingredient brownies

Low-sugar brownies have a secret ingredient

Kids, get your aprons on. We’re going to whip up some brownies that are as good for the body as they are for the soul. Including time to wash up the dishes, these treats should take no more than a half hour away from your Minecraft play time. More

The berry scary pie

Berry pie

“That’s scary!” Isla declared, her wide eyes shifting from the cooking pot to the finished product. I knew Halloween had been on her mind, now only a couple of weeks away.

“How so?” I asked. More

Help Mr. Pancreas do his job – try low-sugar cookie-candy

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Nuts and fruit slow down the release of glucose into the blood.

Sugar’s role in our health

Sugar is Will’s favorite food group.

“Maybe you can cut back on the sugary things, once in a while,” Vinny suggests.

“Sugar is in everything!” Will proclaims. “It gives us energy!”

“That’s true,” Vinny agrees. “What I don’t like, though, is when we add sugar to our food, over and above what nature puts there. Have you heard about your pancreas?” More

Chocolate-and-pear tart for Marie-Laure

Saint Malo

Saint Malo

A blind orphan threads her way through the streets of Saint Malo at the end of the World War II, with a fresh-baked loaf under her arm. Her name is Marie-Laure and dry bread is all she will have to eat for several days… .

Hidden in the loaf are coordinates destined for the Allied Forces, pin-pointing where the Nazis are headquartered in the town, where their supplies are stored, where their ammunition is kept. Marie-Laure’s uncle radios this vital information across the airwaves on a powerful set hidden in their attic. More

Spotted puddink, an old favorite of British school kids

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Vinny’s “skinny” Spotted Puddink

Get the kids together and make a “skinny” version of Spotted Dick, a traditional English steamed pudding. Cook up Harry Potter’s favorite dessert at Hogwarts just in time for the new school year and make some magic happen! More

Fuhrman’s 10 worst foods

Sugar makes these treats a no-no for best health

Added refined sugar makes these treats a no-no for best health

Last time, I introduced you to Dr. Joel Fuhrman and his list of 10 best foods for battling the effects of old age. Now I’m going to show you his list at the other end – Fuhrman’s 10 worst foods… foods that can lead you to an early grave. More

Fire cracker day!

Fire-Cracker Day!

Fire-Cracker Day!

The 24th of May is the Queen’s birthday.
If we don’t get a holiday, we’ll all run away!

It turns out we do get a holiday, but which queen, exactly, would that be, here in Canada?

Why it’s Queen Victoria, of course, the reigning monarch in 1867 when Canada became a country. Victoria was also key in choosing Ottawa over Kingston, Toronto or Montreal as Canada’s capital. So we Ottawans think she deserves a little fireworks on her birthday.

The weather is always a bit iffy on the Victoria Day long weekend in Ottawa, though. So fireworks are not always a possibility. But we can always whip up something special for the birthday table to honor the old queen, regardless of the weather! More

Ms. Manners makes easy work of cheaters’ lemony cheese cake

Cheat on your diet with this lo-sugar lemony cheese cake!

Cheat on your diet with this lo-sugar lemony cheese cake!

“That Mr. Crank is such a witch,” complained Vinny, about his neighbor. “He spends his days dreaming up ways to make my life miserable.” More

Black magic: Chocolate syrup on ice

Black ice - chocolate magic

Just two ingredients…

Awesome! This idea came my way courtesy of the Paddington Foodie, chef extraordinaire. It’s ridiculously easy. Combining just two super-foods, this simple syrup zaps any dessert you like with goodness that is sure to grant you the superpowers of your dreams. More

Goats-Gruff cheese cake and cranberry snow

Goat's milk makes great cheese!

Goat’s milk makes great cheese!

Why goat cheese?

Goat cheese is my go-to cheese on a daily basis. I love it because of its creamy texture and crisp, tart taste. It’s perfect in my omelets and on top of my leafy greens at lunch.

But it’s also packed with great nutrition. When it comes to fat and calories, goat cheese has the advantage over cheese made from cow’s milk. More

Readers Earl Grey teabag cookies

earl grey tea(bag) cookies

Event…

Our book club was meeting at my house this month. What to serve? Looking in my tea box, I discovered a couple of packets of loose-leaf tea labelled Readers Earl Grey Tea. What could be more perfect for this special group of readers, I thought. More

Cherry clafouti solves one omnivore’s dilemma

Omnivore's dilemma - Pollan

What’s for dinner?

Once upon a time some friends formed a neighborhood reading salon. One night they slogged through the snow to sit by a fire together and discuss a book Michael Pollan wrote nearly 10 years ago — The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Pollan’s story lifts the blinders to show where our food comes from, just as deftly as if he wrote it, well, yesterday.

More

How to cook eggs for raw-egg recipes

Dovecote sees the light

Dali’s hen house

 

Raw eggs

In my previous post, I talked about making eggnog from scratch using fresh clean unbroken eggs, cracking them carefully, and allowing them to cure in sugar and alcohol. Raw eggs are generally safe for healthy people.

If you are cooking for young children, pregnant mamas, the elderly, or people with weak immune systems, though, you won’t want to risk serving them raw eggs. But hey, you don’t have to ditch your favorite recipes. More

Cranberry troll cream and the three gruff goats

Cranberry troll cream

A Norwegian tradition

A Tale of Three Goats

Once upon a time, three little Billy goats were feeling a bit gruff. They hadn’t eaten since they left the barn in the morning, because during the night, their meadow had been grazed to the ground by a herd of reindeer, one of whom had a red nose!

The goats trotted and trotted, looking for fresh grass under the snow. But they had no luck. At last, they came upon a raging river. On the opposite bank, rows of cranberry bushes poked their heads up through the drifts. Lunch called!

The water looked deep and cold. But they soon spotted a stone bridge. The littlest and liveliest goat boy danced ahead. When he jumped onto the bridge, a troll leaped at him, all smelly and ugly.

“I eats goats for lunch,” the troll roared, “and you looks mighty tasty!” More

Gut wars! Arm yourself with yogurt and prosper

Grilled pineapple, sweetened greek yogurt, cinnamon & almonds

Yogurt, yogurt everywhere!

 En garde!

Trillions of bacteria live happily in our gut. The goodies among them help us digest our food and absorb its nutrients. They also help our body make vitamins, absorb minerals, and get rid of  toxins. They make our immune system strong. And best of all, they work on our brain cells to help them battle anxiety, stress, and depression. Friendly bugs in our gut make up the army that protects us from disease, including mental illness.

Good bacteria, called probiotics, come to us in fermented foods. Buttermilk, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, sour dough bread, raw-milk cheeses and kefir all harbor the good guys. For many, though, probiotics march forth  into our gut in yogurt. More

Vinny’s brownie malfunction 😲

cocoa brownies

Sugary cocoa brownies are my favorite!

The good

Kids love brownies. And I have the perfect recipe that kids and their families can make from scratch.

It’s easy to bake with chocolate when you use cocoa! More

A cake cup for Krista – Chocolate rules!

cake cups

The candles spluttered out in a blast of air, as 9-year-old Krista blew across her birthday cake and made a wish.

“What did you wish for?” asked Vinny. “A unicorn for the backyard shed? A chest of gold Lego?”

“No… and no,” said Krista. “I wished I was skinny!”

“What? No!” Vinny was aghast. More

Carrots for dessert? Add grapes and go!

DSCN5406_edited

A duck walked up to a lemonade stand. And he said to the man
running the stand… “Hey…. Got any grapes?”

The man said, “No, we just sell lemonade.  It’s cold and it’s fresh and it’s all home made.  Can I get you a glass?” The duck said, “I’ll pass.” (waddle waddle waddle)

I feel just like that persistent little duckie in Bryant Oden’s wickedly humorous song who wouldn’t give up until he found some grapes.

Unlike the duck, when I find grapes I know just what I’ll do with them. More

It’s national macadamia-nut day today!

Macadamia nut tea cake

A tropical tea cake for your sweetie

Many months back I posted about how our Miss Macadamia, with her low omega-6 fatty acids,  offers a treasure chest of healthy, stable fats for your dining pleasure.

Today, in honor of Macadamia’s special day, I’m reposting a delicious recipe for you to try out, featuring macadamia nuts and their oil. More

Birthday cake for a country

Happy Birthday, Canada!

Happy Birthday, Canada!

Canada Day in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, is always a great party. The city closes down and the roads are open only to buses, people, and entertainers. The past few years, even our own street joined in the fun, with party food for the neighborhood, everybody bringing something special. Vinny brought his “Jubilation” – a cake made by the young Elizabeth during the war, before she was queen, when sugar was at a premium and food was hard to come by. Here’s the story of how “Jubilation” came to be, which I first published a few years back. More

Crown the meal with savory pear taquitos

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Sweet!

If apples were pears
And peaches were plums
And chevre had a different name
If sugar was  ne’er
And cognac was rum
I’d love you just the same

Here it is, folks… a fabulous dessert filled with protein, vitamins and minerals and topped off with great taste… the finale of our Mediterranean small plates evening. It’s surprisingly easy, too.

I made the little rolls a couple of days ahead and froze them on a baking sheet. On party day, they went straight from the freezer into my preheated oven at dessert time, and in a few minutes they were ready to plate. More

Vinny cooks up an Internet dinner

Gourmet dinner - red theme

Our annual dinner party

Vinny and I have made new friends since we’ve been blogging. Many of them are great cooks!

When it was our turn to host a dinner party this spring, Vinny thought it would be fun to showcase recipes he’s found on-line. It was such a hard choice seeing as there’s only so much food you can take in on any given evening… and there are so many wonderful dishes to choose from. Thank goodness for Pinterest, where a foodie can save and sort favorite recipes found on the Internet. For this particular evening, Vinny picked the following dishes, based on Mediterranean small plates. More

The Night Circus: Black-and-white torte with raspberries at centre ring

The clock chimes 4a.m. at the Night Circus and bonfire is burning strong, fed by Marco's book of charms.

The clock chimes 4 a.m. at the Night Circus. Her bonfire burns strong, fed by Marco’s book of charms.

“What’s black and white with red in the middle?” Vinny asks.  “Give up? It’s the cake I made for my book club, when Erin Morgenstern’s novel “The Night Circus” was up for discussion.

On the surface, Morgenstern gives us an enchanting love story about magic. The circus, open only at night, shimmers in black and white. It is the venue for a desperate competition, as two wizards older than time pit themselves against one another through their best students. The light and the dark signify their two opposing ways of manipulating reality. Which will win out, Vinny wonders. More

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia miracle pudding boosts memory

Chia pudding cup

 

Don’t eat your potted pet…

Remember those little Chia sculptures that blew onto the scene about 30 years ago?  We’d water them and give them a little love, and they rewarded us by growing hair and fur in all the right places. They were cute but decidedly not edible. More

Macadamia nuts make a rich tea cake

Macadamia nut tea cake

A macadamia nut tea cake for your valentine…

Last week I posted about our Miss Hawaii, in particular, how macadamia nuts with their low omega-6 offer a treasure chest of healthy, stable  fats for your dining pleasure.

Now, as promised, here is a recipe to try, featuring macadamia nuts and their oil. More

Almonds two ways: Another pineapple dessert plus gluten-free cookies

Chewy almond butter cookies

 Verse 2

My little granddaughter
Came to visit me,
And all for a taste
Of my almond cook-kie.

Another pineapple and almond dessert…

Last week’s post featured Verse 1 of Vinny’s ode to almonds and the grilled pineapple dish with almonds I pictured there.

This time, I made another version, using the microwave instead of the barbecue. I drizzled some liqueur over the pineapple (which I sliced really really thin and spread across the dinner plate in a single layer). Then I nuked the plate for 1 minute in the micro. Finally, I topped the pineapple with Greek yogurt sweetened with stevia, then with lots of chopped  almonds, candied ginger, and cinnamon. It tasted like Paris. OO-la-la!

Gluten-free almond-butter cookies

Here’s an easy recipe you can make with the kids. You can even serve these cookies along with my pineapple dish for a special treat. It uses almond-butter. My friend Esther sent along the idea. She says, “These are tasty, just sweet enough, very nutty, and a touch chewy, as long as they are taken out of the oven when just done (no darkness on the bottom).”

I liked that there are only a few ingredients, no special tools needed except a hand-mixer, and no temperamental mixing instructions. These cookies taste like a treat straight out of a candy box :). Yet, they’re packed with good nutrition. Yay Esther!

On the left, no quinoa flour. The cookie is oilier and more crumbly than the one on the right, made with my recipe. Both taste the same.

Some tips

  • When I opened the jar of almond-butter, all the oil had pooled at the top. I had to pour the oil into the mixing bowl, scrape out the nut solids, and mix vigorously with a big spoon to incorporate the oil again. Thinking things over, this may have been because I used almond/hazelnut butter, because that was what I had in the cupboard. Hazelnuts are considerably more oily than almonds.
  • I halved the sugar in Esther’s recipe, using a scant half cup. I wanted each cookie to have an acceptable level of sugar (the guide is 5 grams a serving). My cookies clocked in at 7 grams each. They taste plenty sweet.
  • I added a third of a cup of quinoa flakes to the mix. The cookies didn’t hold together well without it. The quinoa absorbed the oil that seemed to leak all over everything without it. If you don’t have quinoa flakes, use oat flour… or even whole wheat flour if you aren’t allergic to gluten. Five ingredients make for an easy recipe kids can whip up themselves.
  • I buy quinoa flakes at the health food store. The beauty of quinoa is that it has no flavor of its own, unlike whole wheat. The cookies with quinoa flakes taste identical to the cookies without it – they just handle better. Plus they have a bit more protein and fiber.

almond-butter cookies

Vinny’s no-flour, no-butter almond cookies
Makes 16 cookies

  • 1 cup natural almond butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flakes (available at health food stores)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • almond slivers to garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Using a hand mixer, mix all the ingredients together on low speed.
  3. Scoop 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough 1 1/2-inches apart onto the baking sheet. I used my hands to make nicely shaped round balls.
  4. Flatten the dough balls (gently) with a fork, making a cross pattern on the cookies.
  5. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes. Watch them the last few minutes and take them out once they start leaking too much oil and before the bottoms darken. Mine were done at 9 minutes. Let the cookies rest on the counter in the pan for 2 or 3 minutes so that they have time to set before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Nutrition per cookie made from Vinny’s recipe

  • 150 calories
  • 10 grams fat (of which 9 grams is monounsaturated)
  • 13 grams carbohydrates (of which 7 grams is sugar)
  • 3.5 grams protein

I . love . turtles… the chocolate kind

Apple turtle

Mother Turtle, made from apples here, casts a healing spell among First Nations people.

The turtle myth…

In Native American stories, the turtle is a symbol for Mother Earth. This ancient animal commonly lives as long as 150 years. Its shell keeps her safe. And her slow even pace through life sets an example for people to keep going when the going gets tough. Turtle always makes time to enjoy each moment life has to offer.

To honor the turtle, I suggested to my friend Isla that we could make some for Christmas. “They’re so tasty!” I said. More

Creamy triple-chocolate mousse, loaded with omega-9 from avocado

Avocado Mousse

A healthy chocolate dessert

Instead of the suspicious fats usually lurking in rich desserts from heavy cream and butter, this chocolate pudding hides a secret agent known far and wide for his success in fighting disease. His name? Detective Avocado. More

Banana pudding cake, with coconut palm sugar

Healthy banana bread from super ripe bananas

Turn waste into want with moist banana cake

Waste not want not

“Yes, we have no bananas…,” Vinny said to his  friend Will, who turned up the other day wanting some of his favorite fruit. “We have bananas, but you won’t want to eat them,” Vinny explained, showing Will the goods. The black, squishy fruits resembled bananas only in shape. More

Nutty gluten-free cake with or without spun sugar

Candied hazelnuts

Candied hazelnuts

The gluten-free birthday cake challenge

Totally in awe is the only way to describe my state at 1:00 am on the eve of my sister’s birthday, as I stared at my work.

I had been in desperate need of a cake. Not just any cake… but a gluten-free confection, so the birthday girl could have some, too.

Chef Janet Rörschåch’s blog suggested a beautiful angel-light cake made from eggs and ground nuts, decorated with vanilla-infused fruit and boozy whipped cream.

The pièce de resistance was glittering threads of sugar, spun from hazel nut centers. Perfect! More

Ghost frogs and pumpkin brulé…

Ghost frogs and pumpkin brule

Of course, the frog part was an accident!

When my little meringue ghosts collapsed after their stint in the oven into weird brown froggies on lily pads, I put it down to the stevia I subbed for more than half the sugar. It seems that for meringues to hold their height, the sugar-to-eggwhite ratio is crucial. Live and learn. More

Pack these sweet potato cookies into kids’ lunches

sweet potato cookies, kids' lunches, low-sugar

Sweet potato cookies get top marks for “Delicious!”

Yes, indeed, once again you are looking at sweet potatoes. I mashed them up with some prune butter and a little maple syrup. Then I made a cookie dough by adding oatmeal, whole-grain flour, and ground sun-flower seeds. As a way to get vegetables into the lunch boxes of picky eaters, these are spectacular! More

Wheat and the Glycemic Index… Loaded question!

Wheat

The glycemic load might be a better guide to healthy eating than the glycemic index

What should we believe? The Internet bombards us with so many facts, ideas, opinions and outright lies, it’s hard to make out the signal from the noise.

Dr. Davis in his book Wheat Belly makes a lot of noise about wheat. He calls it a blight and a poison and says no-one should eat it, not just the 6% of us who are gluten intolerant. But many of his statements are misleading. More

Imagine… Tasty substitutions that work for good health!

Ice krispies

Ice krispy cakes are even healthier made from brown rice cereal, fortified with flaxmeal. The recipe is included in Vinny’s book.

Following on from last week’s account of a disaster averted while trying to alter a recipe, I’m sharing a wonderful post I found on-line this week. It’s all about how to make successful substitutions, mainly in baked goods, but in other ways, too. More

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